Handicappers in horse racing can be right or they can be wrong. On March 12, 1988, a horse was born and after one big race this horse had handicappers questioning themselves and wondering “What did I miss?”
This foal was Arcangues. I bet most people don’t know how to pronounce it, that is unless you are French. Arcangues is a village in southwest France. Arcangues is pronounced like ar-KONG. Arcangues was bred by Daniel Wildenstein. His sire was Sagace, winner of the 1984 Prix de l’ Arc de Triomphe.
Arcangues raced in Europe, mostly on the turf (grass). Out of 15 starts he only had 4 wins. The grass courses in France didn’t help with his sore back. He had won the Prix Eugene Adam in 1991, the Prix du Prince d’Orange in 1992 and the Prix d’Ispahan in 1993. Arcangues then headed to the United States. There he would have his first start on the dirt. That race would be the 1993 Breeders Cup Classic.
That’s a tough race for a horse’s first start on the dirt. Not only was this his first race on the dirt, but he would be coming off an undistinguished effort in the Ciga Prix Dollar five weeks earlier, and he would not be ridden by his regular rider. What are the odds of that?
To make things even worse is that Jockey Jerry Bailey, who was riding Arcangues for the first time, couldn’t even understand the instructions in the paddock before the race. Jerry Bailey hadn’t won a race all day, and he was feeling down. The horse was 99-1, and he was afraid that he would just embarrass himself on such a long shot, and that he wouldn’t just trail the field by 100 yards.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic is a huge race and horses from all around the world came to race in it, including horses that won the Belmont Stakes, the Haskell, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Pacific Classic, the Super Derby, and many more. But Arcangues was different and he was overlooked.
As the field of 13 came to the far turn, Arcangues who was coming from the back of the pack found his best stride. In the stretch, he flew by the leader who was the favorite, with ease, and drew off by 2 lengths. Tom Durkin the track announcer sounded as though he was about to fall out of his booth as he shouted:
“Here is Arcangues...to win it, in an absolute shocker! He’s 99-1 in the 3 million dollar classic!”
“I had never seen him before I stepped into the paddock.” Bailey said after the race, the point when he learned how to pronounce the horse’s name. “Ar-KONG? Well, it was a pleasant surprise. He ran like King Kong today.”
He had beaten the odds. The board would only go to 99-1 but Arcangues was actually 133-1 and the payoff was $269.20. Who would ever bet on a horse with those odds? Well, someone did...by accident. The chairman of Atlantic City Race Course, Bob Levy accidentally hit a $120 bet on the Classic, when he meant to box three horses in the Breeders Cup Turf, which was the race before. He couldn’t get back to the windows in time to change the ticket. So, he had Arcangues, which had the same post position number as the horse that he wanted to win, on top. In the end, he collected $10,154. Arcangues’s victory is the biggest upset in Breeders Cup history, and his $269.20 payoff for a $2 wager still remains a Breeders Cup record. Arcangues also was the only foreign-based winner of the Breeders Cup Classic until Raven’s Pass prevailed in the 2008 Classic.
Arcangues was then sent to a trainer in California, and Jerry Bailey never rode him again. He won only one more race, the John Henry Handicap. He was then retired from racing in the summer of 1994 after finishing 5th in the Hollywood Gold Cup. He retired with a racing record of 19 starts: 6 wins, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds, with earnings of $1,979,631.
Prior to the 1995 breeding season, Japanese horseman Kazuo Nakamura bought Arcangues from a French syndicate for stallion duty in Japan. So Arcangues was sent to Japan for stud. He sired 264 foals, of which 94 have started and 23 have won, including multiple group II winner Ar Alan. Arcangues was pensioned from stud duty that spring after foundering. In October 2006 he was euthanized. He was 18 years old.
“It is with deep regret that we lost such a great horse who won the Breeders Cup,” said Yutaka Yokoyama, senior manager of the Japan Racing Association’s New York office.
Arcangues will always been remembered as the horse that won the 1993 Breeders Cup Classic. He was the horse that nobody saw coming. You can defiantly say that he beat the odds.
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